In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly writes about the “10,000-Hour Rule”. Gladwell states that one of the key aspects to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. His point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest into greatness.
I found myself thinking about this when I spotted a kid at the Zwartkops Raceway who couldn’t have been a little over a meter tall.
I was in awe as I observed him in his little race suit with helmet in hand, while interacting with boys who looked a little older than him.
While waiting for their practice session around the track to begin, I noticed a gentleman manning the young man’s go-kart and automatically assumed it was his dad.
“How old is your boy?” I asked.
With a great sense of pride beaming through his smile he told me that Thapelo was five years old.
Amazed by this revelation, I could hardly take my eyes off the kid as his dad helped him put his helmet on and jump into his kart.
One could tell that he was a lot younger than his counterparts as his pedals had been modified to allow his tiny legs to reach them.
But it was not until I saw him zip around the kart track that I was completely blown away.
The boy is absolutely fearless, taking the corners like an experienced racing driver.
While chatting to his dad, he mentioned that he was worried he might have just introduced his son to the sport too early.
My immediate reaction was, “OH NO! I think you’ve done well by letting him start so early.”
In my head Thapelo was an outlier who’s clear talent just needs to be nurtured.
He reminded me of Lewis Hamilton’s colorful life journey to becoming a Formula 1 champion.
His father bought him his first go-kart at the age of six, but it was only two years later in 1993 that he began karting.
Look, I’m not saying Thapelo will turnout like Lewis, a lot of factors will ultimately determine whether he does or not.
But getting such an early start certainly won’t hurt his chances.
As a sport loving father of a four-year-old daughter, I often find myself battling with the temptation of pushing my little one too hard, too early.
It’s no secret that I have a passion for golf and almost by default my daughter has also taken a liking to the sport.
Lydia Ko is the youngest player, male or female, to be ranked No. 1 in professional golf. She was just 17 years 9 months and 8 days old when she achieved this feat.
She was only five when she first picked up a club, just a year older than what my daughter is.
Now I’m not saying Oarabile is going to surpass Ko as the youngest women to win a major championship, or the youngest person ever to win an LPGA Tour event.
There is certainly no harm in doing the best I can as her dad to try and help her get there.
BUT… I’ll only do that if a few years down the line she still harbours the same ambitions.